Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tankfest 2015 ... a beauty pageant for ... tanks and armoured vehicles

Last weekend we were in Dorset for Tankfest 2015 ... and, whilst I really wasn't expecting to feel this way, I have to say that it was pretty amazing. I was dragged along because the child had got lost last year, resulting in the whole festival being locked down for 20 minutes on a code red, as Mr B and several members the British Army ran around frantically trying to find him. The whole thing was so traumatic (for Mr. B) that they insisted I come along this year to sit on a picnic rug and give them a rendezvous point to come back to if they got separated.

I agreed, knowing how much they had both enjoyed the festival last year, but expecting that it would be a day to be endured rather than enjoyed (I didn't set out on Saturday morning with any great love for, or interest in, tanks!). But I spent a very pleasant day, doing my knitting on a grassy bank with thousands of tank enthusiasts, a hot sun overhead and the most amazing armoured vehicles going through their paces in the arena in front of us. It was a fabulous spectacle: dramatic with a hell-raising capital D and a great big mechanised roar ... .

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Mid-summer bath bombs ...

I'm just loving these long, balmy summer days. And it's great that our barmy British weather is finally playing along with the notion that it's summer time.

How better to relax after a hot, busy day in the sun than with a long soak in a rose-scented bath? And that's just what these amazing bath bombs will deliver ... in spadefuls. They smell wonderful and, as they dissolve, they release a swirling eddy of little pink petals into your bathwater. Divine! Things could be only be improved upon further with the addition of some lovely music and a glass of something cold and fizzy to wet your whistle ... just saying ... .

Anyway they're super easy to make. Here's my recipe ... 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

When a silver thimble was wedding bling ...

Yesterday morning I was racing through gallery 116 at the Victoria & Albert Museum when I chanced upon a little exhibition called A Stitch in Time. Well, in truth it's little more than one display case on the bridge of the marble stairway that runs up to the third floor, so it's a teeny weeny bit extravagant of the good folk down at the V&A to bill it as an exhibition, but, nevertheless, it made me stop and think.

Until the second half of the nineteenth century us regular folk - not the Great and the Good with their fashionable tailors, costumiers, hosiers and milliners - would have had to get by with home-made clothes. Today sewing, knitting and the other textile crafts are regarded as hobbies, something we do for fun, but back in the day they were essential life skills for all but the wealthiest heiresses.

A good wife and mother had many talents, and not least among them was the ability to clothe her family. Being nifty with a needle was, for many, as important as being able to read and count. It was certainly a talent that a young woman would have wanted to flaunt. Oh, yes, back in the day being nifty with a needle would have been regarded as just a little bit sexy.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Black currant jam with vanilla and star anise ...

Oh happy days! I'm so in love with summer. It's totally, absolutely, no-question-about-it, my favourite time of the year.

I love those long summer days, when I can leave the garden door open, the Wonder Dog can come go as he pleases and the balmy summer breeze can blow through the house. I love that moment in late spring/ early summer when the roses go crazy and explode with colour and fragrance. I don't like to think of it as mid-summer cos' that would suggest that it was already half over, and I want to hug this baby close and make the season last for as long as I can possibly hold onto it for.

Yesterday morning I was delighted to find that my little black currant bush (of a year and a half in my garden) had borne its first decent crop, which was all starting to look very lush and ripe.  Not wanting to waste any of this precious fruit I headed out and harvested the bounty. It weighed in at a very respectable 460g, which I decided was more than enough to warrant getting my preserving pan out for.

And this is what I made:

Thursday, 18 June 2015

What to do when your marmalade hasn't set ...

Don't throw it out!

I had a bit of a disaster recently with some marmalade I'd made from a batch of sweet oranges. They just hadn't had enough natural pectin in to get a good set, and my jars were full of the most delicious marmalade, which had the consistency of an orange smoothie. The flavour was great, but the stuff was impossible to use on toast!

If you ever suffer a similar disaster here are three steps to turn the situation around: